Land Link

Colorado Building Farmers Advanced Course offered in Chaffee County this April.

Kurt Jones, Chaffee County CSU Extension Agent

Deadline to register April 3rd!

Kurt Jones and the Chaffee County CSU Extension office is offering the Colorado Building Farmers Advanced Course on Tuesday evenings in April from 5:30-9:00pm at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds.

This great offering builds off the Colorado Building Farmers Beginning Course led by Kurt Jones each of the last two winters and offers a similar format; professionals join class participants for a delicious dinner and social time and then lead the evening’s class on their topic of choice.

The offerings and presenters will include Agriculture Business Leadership and Resiliency on April 7th with James Pritchett, Assistant Vice President for Engagement at Colorado State University; Agritourism Opportunities on April 14th with Kelli Hepler of the Colorado Agritourism Association; on April 21st several local producers will discuss leasing land from a tenants and owners perspective, and what defines success in local agriculture; April 28th will focus on Advanced Risk Management (Insurance, Workmans Comp., Employees, Agricultural Taxes and Audit Risks) with Justin Storm of State Farm Insurance and Rachel Walke, CPA at Walke and Associates.

Cost for these programs is $30 each or $100 for the whole series. Pricing includes dinners and course handouts. See the 2015 Advanced Registration form & 2015 Chaffee County Colorado Building Farmers Advanced Schedule for registration and more info or contact the office at 719.539.6447 or

Kurt Jones’ other offerings this spring include Vegetable Gardening and Extending the Growing Season on April 27th from 6:00-9:30pm and Introduction to Drip Irrigation for the Home Garden on May 2nd from 9:00-11:30am, sure to be great classes as well!

Keep your eye out for the “In the Garden” column in the Mountain Mail to keep tabs on all the offerings from Kurt Jones and your local Chaffee County Extension Office.

Thanks to our partners, sponsors and participants of the 3rd Annual Land Link Forum and pilot Visioning Course!

Guidestone’s Colorado Land Link program hosted its 3rd Annual Land Link Forum in conjunction with the inaugural offering of our Visioning  Course for aspiring farmers and ranchers on March 5-6 in Southeast Colorado.

The Visioning Course, held Thursday March 5th, was designed to help participants ask some key questions prior to starting an agricultural venture: what are my goals, what are my competencies, how am I going to accomplish this, what help might I need to do so?

Throughout the course, participants were given opportunity to learn about what resources and organizations are out there to help them achieve their farm dream through presentations and representation from CSU Extension, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Guidestone, Palmer Land Trust and more. There was a tremendous wealth of knowledge in the room!

Vision Course Participants sharing stories
Vision Course Participants sharing stories

Participants also were inspired by the location of the event at Excelsior Farmers Exchange Food Hub facility, which kicked off an afternoon of farm tours with several different farmers and operations in the region, including Hobbs Family Farm with Dan Hobbs, Knapp Family Farm with John Knapp, and an overview of operations at the CSU Extension Arkansas Valley Research Station. When asked to share a highlight from their Visioning Course experience, one participant said, “Farm visits! It’s always invigorating to see successful farms out there, especially of different models.”

We wrapped up the Visioning Course with a trip to local favorite, Boss Hoggs Saloon in La Junta, for a Farmer Social, sponsored by the National Young Farmers Coalition and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

That brought us to the 3rd Annual Land Link Forum on Friday, March 6th at Otero Junior College in La Junta. We were thrilled to bring the Forum to the Southeast Region of Colorado for the first time. As part of Colorado Land Link’s regional capacity building efforts, Guidestone will be moving the Forum around the state to different regions (SW Colorado 2016!) and working on forming Regional Steering Committees as we go.

A strong network of beginning and established producers, agricultural service providers, conservation professionals, political and other leaders attended the Forum, which was focused on building the capacity of Land Link in the Southeast and mapping a coordinated strategy for the future of Colorado’s agricultural lands and producers.

A Farmer shares his story
A Farmer shares his story

Attendees from outside the region gained a newfound insight and appreciation for the Southeast Region — for the agricultural opportunities, the cultural sites, and the community’s perseverance in the face of adversity — from presentations given by Matt Heimerich of Palmer Land Trust, Rick Manzanares of Canyons and Plains,  and Pam Denahy of the City of La Junta.

We wrapped up the day with a celebratory reception, including the old timey tunes of Guidestone’s own Andrea Earley Coen and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union’s Harrison Topp!

One of the agricultural service providers in attendance said, “The meeting of those in attendance and the ideas which they presented and discussed has been very beneficial in administering my programs to beginning producers.”

All in all it was a great event and leaves us here at Guidestone Colorado eager to keep building the capacity of the Colorado Land Link program, a program that matches farmers and ranchers seeking land opportunities with landowners or retiring producers that are open to transitioning their land. In addition to this matching service, Land Link serves as a resource clearinghouse for educational and training opportunities, technical resources and networking for technical assistance and support.

Special thanks to the sponsors of these two events: Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Flynn Wright & Fredman, LLC; Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas; and National Young Farmers Coalition.

Special thanks as well to the many partners and hosts that helped make this an extremely rich and successful few days: CSU Extension, Colorado Agricultural Development Authority, Hobbs Family Farm, Arkansas Valley Organic Growers, Knapp Family Farm, Palmer Land Trust, Canyons and Plains, Farm Service Agency ColoradoOtero Junior College, City of La Junta, and Boss Hoggs Saloon.



Meeting the Capital Needs of Beginning Farmers

One of the greatest barriers for next generation farmers is the enormous investment required for starting a farm operation. Not only can the cost of farmland be prohibitively high, but acquiring the necessary equipment and improvements can also be a significant financial challenge. Many next generation farmers have not had the opportunity to develop a financial track record that allows them to qualify for conventional loans. Such hurdles can be showstoppers for many seeking to follow their farm aspirations, but they don’t have to be.

Colorado Land Link has recently been exploring what opportunities exist in Colorado for next generation farmers to not only lease land but to purchase if they are so interested. Many excellent loan options exist out there to do exactly that, and Guidestone is developing resources that help Colorado Land Link applicants in reviewing and determining which federal or state loan program would best meet their start-up needs.

One such loaning agency is the Colorado chapter of the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Beginning farmer loans are available for real estate, livestock, inventory, and operations at very low interest rates. New producers who are looking to expand their operations may also qualify. Interested individuals may learn more about FSA Beginning Farmer loan programs by clicking here or find their local FSA county office here.

Other options that can help applicants navigate are offered through the Colorado Agriculture Development Authority (CADA), which has a Beginning Farmer Program that provides low interest loans to new farmers. The Colorado Rural Rehabilitation Corporation offers excellent loan opportunities to help beginning farmers get started as well. If qualified, there are real estate and livestock loans available for the full amount with no down payment.




Colorado Farm Succession Coordinators Certified

Representatives from a number of agricultural organizations gathered in Denver on May 28thto learn of a new service being offered in Colorado – Farm and Ranch Succession Coordination. This meeting was convened by Guidestoneand Colorado State University’s Building Farmers in the West team to announce the team of Farm and Ranch Succession Coordinators that were recently certified through the International Farm Transition Network(IFTN), an organization that has been spearheading farm succession efforts since 1990. John Baker, founder and current president of IFTN, made a presentation about farm succession planning as a service to help retiring farmers and ranchers across Colorado design a transition plan to meet their family and financial goals.

Attendees at the meeting learned about Guidestone’s Colorado Land Link program and the role of farm succession planning in transitioning Colorado’s agricultural resources and heritage into the hands of next generation farmers and ranchers. The need for this service is stark in Colorado where the average age of principal farm and ranch operators across the state has risen to 58.3, as reported by the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture. This also amidst a population growth boom in Colorado that is three times the national average, which places intense development pressures on our agricultural resources and the families that manage them. Farm succession coordinators can be instrumental in facilitating farm and ranch families through the step-by-step process of creating a succession plan that will keep Colorado’s agricultural lands vibrant and in production.

The newly certified Colorado Farm Succession Coordinators will engage in continuing education programs with Colorado State University to ensure they can effectively help Colorado’s farm and ranch families through this process. Additionally a list of professionals, who have expertise in working with Colorado farmers and ranchers  and developing the legal and financial instruments crucial to a succession plan, is being organized for referral.


Conservation Opportunities for Farmers, Ranchers, and Agricultural Landowners: An Interview with Andrew Mackie, Executive Director LTUA


*This is the 3rd and final in a series written by Guidestone’s AmeriCorps OSM/VISTA member Gunnar Paulsen about Guidestone’s Colorado Land Link events forthcoming in March – the 2nd Annual Land Link Forum and Certified Farm Succession Coordinator Training.

The 2nd Annual Land Link Forum is coming up quick, March 7-8th to be precise! The theme of this year’s Forum is Farm Succession Planning (see previous post for more on this topic) and one of the sessions we’re excited about is The Role of Conservation in Farm Succession Planning. I recently had a chance to sit down with Andrew Mackie, Executive Director of the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas (LTUA), and ask him some questions about the session and panel he has assembled, the role of Colorado Land Link in meeting the conservation goals of LTUA, and about tools the conservation community offers for agricultural producers and farm succession planning.

Conservation has become an important tool for protecting and preserving farmland across America. Taking its inspiration from the founding of Earth Day in the 1970s, a movement of community land trusts started to take shape. Land trusts are non-profit, private organizations dedicated to protecting open space, which can include farmland, wildlife habitat and other sensitive landscapes. The primary tool for accomplishing this preservation has been the conservation easement. Conservation easements are agreements entered into between a landowner and a land trust that are mutually beneficial. In exchange for some limits on property rights, such as, say, where buildings can be placed, or where farming or grazing can occur, landowners receive tax incentives. When a parcel of land is put into easement, it is permanent; in the language of land trusts it is “protected in perpetuity.” To date, 2.7 million acres of farmland has been protected by conservation easement.

However, it is not always a sure thing that farmland protected by an easement will remain in agricultural production after that land is sold or the farmer retires (see an interesting report from the NYFC on this matter here). To this end, I asked Mr. Mackie what steps LTUA is taking to help beginning farmers and ranchers become conservation buyers. “We partner with Guidestone’s Colorado Land Link and have supported that program through its development” because, he said:

It is in the interest of the entire land conservation community to make sure that we have a strong, active community to take over these properties as the landowners decide to retire or move on to something else. It is in our interest to have educated, business-smart farmers and ranchers, and if we don’t, we’re going to have a hard time keeping that conservation value the way its intended to be maintained throughout time… Colorado Land Link helps connect us with those qualified buyers.

When it comes to helping farmers and ranchers succeed as conservation buyers, Mackie is frank that it is not just the work of one organization, but a network that includes NRCS, Cooperative Extension, and services like Colorado Land Link. “As an organization, we realize that agriculture has a very important role in both the preservation of open space and the economy of the United States. It’s only by working together that we’re going to keep that.”

I also asked what incentives exist in Colorado for non-agricultural landowners to rent their easement-protected land to farmers or ranchers and the first thing Andrew mentioned was the water rights principle of “use it or lose it.” This refers to the Colorado Water Law’s presumption that if a water right has not been exercised for a consecutive 10-year period it has been abandoned, at which point that right is placed on the abandonment list and can be given to another applicant. And if that happens, “they’ve just given up a private property right that they had that comes with a dollar value associated with it, sometimes a very high dollar value,” says Mackie. So, one way to keep your water right and to receive further tax breaks through Colorado’s statewide Agricultural Exemption Program is to rent your land for agricultural purposes, which of course will exercise a landowner’s water right. “Sometimes that can be enough for a landowner and they don’t need to recoup a lot from the lease because they’re making it up in tax savings.”

In looking forward to what attendees can expect to learn from the Land Link Forum’s conservation workshop on Friday March 7th– the panel of which includes Ginger Davidson of the Palmer Land Trust, John Stulp, Special Policy Advisor to the Governor on Water, Ben Guillon of WetlandsResearch Associates, Bill Gardiner of the NRCS, and Cindy Lair, StateConservation Program Manager – Mackie says “we’re really trying to give a broad perspective of all the conservation programs and services available to ag. producers.” This will include some of the traditional land trust programs, such as conservation easements, but also about “some of the more cutting edge stuff too, including the new water plan for the state of Colorado… and we’re going to look at other programs that provide economic benefit to landholders, such as wetland mitigation banking on agricultural land, programs such as EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), and Western SARE’s (Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education) programs. Our hope is that whether you’re new, or experienced you can become familiar with these programs and start plugging them into your overall plan for your operation.”

We’re excited to learn more about these innovative programs for farmers and ranchers and hope to see you there!  For information on other programming at the 2ndAnnual Land Link Forum, and to register for the event (the registration deadline is March 3rd), click here.